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Edwards Hilton
(February 2, 1903 - November 18 1982) Ireland

Edwards Hilton

Actor and producer

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Born in London as Robert Hugh Edwards Hilton, and sometimes credited as Edward Hilton, he was educated at St Aloysius' School, Highgate. He toured Ireland with Doran's (McMaster's) Shakespearean company in 1920 and then joined the Old Vic, London. He also sang baritone with the Old Vic Opera Company. He went to Ireland in 1927 to play with McMaster and Micheál Mac Liammóir; they decided to found a new theatre in partnership and opened on 19 October 1928 in the 102-seat Peacock in Abbey Street, Dublin, with Peer Gynt.

After a tour of South Africa in 1927, he went back to Ireland, and remained there, directing and playing in a number of important productions at the Gate. With his company he then toured Europe, Northern Africa, and the United States, and appeared in London, notably in MacLiammóir's Ill Met by Moonlight (1947).

Edwards HiltonIn 1930 they moved to the Gate Theatre, Parnell Square. Edwards directed more than four hundred productions there and played in many of them. He introduced methods of production, décor and lighting that brought new life and excitement to drama in Dublin. The company made many successful tours abroad.

In 1951 he directed a short film, Road to Glenascaul, which was nominated for an Academy Award. In 1953 he directed Hamlet at Elsinore Castle, in Denmark, playing Claudius. He later he directed MacLiammóir's solo programmes, The Importance of Being Oscar (1960) and I Must Be Talking to My Friends (1963). The former was first seen at the Dublin Festival, for which Edwards also directed and played in Paterson's The Roses are Real (1963) and Brian Friel's Philadelphia, Here I Come (1964), both of which were subsequently seen in London, and King Herod Explains (1969) by Conor Cruise O'Brien.

In 1970, while awaiting the reopening of the Gate Theatre, which had been closed for repairs, he directed a production of Chekhov's The Seagull at the Abbey Theatre. Distinctions included life membership of Irish Actors' Equity (1972), the freedom of the city of Dublin (1973), and honorary doctorates from NUI and University of Dublin. He died in a Dublin hospital.

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Source: Phyllis Hartnoll, The Concise Oxford Companion to the Theatre, OUP 1972 - and: A Dictionary of Irish Biography, Henry Boylan (ed.), Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, 1998.

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